EUDORA — It would’ve been the stuff of nightmares, but for good teamwork, resilience and another Ayden Saunders hat trick.
The Atchison High School girls soccer team saw junior keeper Veronica Dill completely overwhelmed in the second half, making saves left and right but unable to stop them all as two strikes found the net within five minutes of halftime.
In 20 minutes of play, almost all of it within close proximity to the Lady Red goal, fears of a Eudora Cardinals rally could be felt on the back of many necks. A 4-2 score seemed like it could very easily become 4-4 and worse in a matter of moments.
Yet Atchison had seized the initiative in the Tuesday evening first half of this regional round 1 playoff game at the Eudora High School soccer field, with Saunders owning three goals and Kendall Ross tasting her own bit of postseason glory. Atchison found a way to absorb the attack, buckle down defensively and run out the clock, though the host never let up. A 4-2 score remained 4-2 to secure AHS the honors for the day.
”I told them before, this would be a good game, a hard-fought game, between two evenly matched teams,” said head coach Alex Zanatta. “And that’s what happened. What we did in the first half, well, we got a couple of very good bounces, and then they came out of halftime hungry and fighting.”
In pulling it off, the Lady Red are staying alive with a playoff win for only the second season in program history. Zanatta said the flow of the game is a reminder of how much willpower and focus matters in team sports.
”We had to play with more of a defensive mindset,” he said. “We had to adjust.”
There won’t be much time to rest. Though the end of the school year allows some time to focus up, the No. 1 seed Maranatha Eagles, who have enjoyed a first round bye, await at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, in Shawnee.
”It’s going to be a matter of who wants to hustle more,” Zanatta said. “We’re gonna have to come out and have the energy and intensity that we showed today.”